As students across Penn’s campus celebrated Spring Fling and the season of renewal, the Penn football team ushered in a similar rebirth: the dawn of a new campaign.
On Friday night, Penn football held its annual Spring Game, an intersquad scrimmage meant to offer a glimpse into what the team has in store for the season ahead. Though Penn’s first competitive matchup is not until September, Friday's exhibition signals a shift in focus – a turn from the season that was to the season that will be.
“Every day you go through the spring, you try to progress,” coach Ray Priore said. “I really liked the performance of a lot of our young kids. A lot of our freshmen, you can see the next level play with what they’re doing, our young offensive line guys progress nicely.”
Friday marked the Quakers’ twelfth and final spring practice, and the most structured competition the team has held since their season-ending win over Princeton on Nov. 19. In that game, Penn knocked off the Tigers thanks to a last-second touchdown from then-senior running back Trey Flowers, giving the team an 8-2 record and a second place finish in the Ivy League.
Flowers is one of several impact players whom Penn will need to replace for the upcoming season. Others include defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher, who transferred to UCLA, offensive lineman Trevor Radosevich, gone to Cincinnati, and linebacker Garrett Morris, now at Samford. Flowers, Heimlicher, Radosevich, and Morris were all first-team All-Ivy selections in 2022.
“It’s play and replacement,” Priore said. “You’re always gonna lose good players as you go through. Heimlicher, Radosevich, those guys are all great players. You’re never going to replace them. But you got some guys that were in the wings last year that learn, and now it’s their chance to step up to the plate.”
Arguably the best play of the Spring Game occurred when sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin delivered a sideline strike to freshman receiver Jared Richardson, who managed to stay in bounds while securing the ball. Richardson saw action in just four games last season, but with the team’s lofty aspirations for the new year, many fresh faces will have the chance to step up.
That triumphant win against Princeton ensured that Penn’s up-and-down 2022 season ended on a high note. Despite a 6-0 start to the year, the Quakers dropped two of their last four, squandering a chance at the Ivy title. After winning just three games in 2021, it was an undeniably successful year for the Red and Blue, but one they will hope to build on and surpass as they set their sights on next season.
“When you ask anyone on the team, I don’t think we’re satisfied with 8-2,” Sayin said. “So I think we just want to keep it pushing, keep working toward a better record this year, and hopefully a championship.”
And spanning the sidelines for the Quakers were the buds yet to bloom – next year’s freshmen, dressed in street clothes, taking it all in. Over the summer, they will don pads and helmets of the Red and Blue for the first time, but only time will tell just what kind of mark they will make on the program.
With next season’s roster set, only one thing separates Penn from the official kick-off: a summer’s worth of work, both together and individually. And though there remains plenty of time between now and the season opener, Priore says the team cannot wait.
“It’s only 118 days till the first practice when we get back on [Aug.] 17, and I think it’s 148 days until first kickoff. So who’s counting?” he joked. “We’re excited about it, but we gotta take it one day at a time.”